Before coming home from hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to care for your incision
- your level of activity
- driving (iIt’s illegal to drive while wearing a sling.)
- symptoms you should look out for that require medical attention
- any changes to your regular medication
- what kind of exercise you can do
- how to manage pain
- how to manage constipation caused by painkillers
- when to have your stitches out
Caring for your incision
It’s important to keep your bandage over your incision clean and dry with the dressing intact. There may be some discharge from the incision but if the discharge increases or smells unpleasant, you should contact your surgeon. You need to keep it dry until 1 to 2 days after your sutures have been removed.
Placing ice packs on your shoulder can help to reduce swelling. Ice packs can be applied for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day until the swelling has reduced.
Wearing a sling
You’ll most likely need to wear a sling after your surgery but check with your surgeon or physiotherapist for instructions. Your surgeon will recommend the best type of sling for you.
Range of motion
Your surgeon will let you know of any restrictions on the range of motion for your shoulder during the recovery period. You’ll probably be asked to avoid turning your arm out (external rotation) for the first few weeks.
Your physiotherapist will give you exercises to do at home. You’ll need to do them at least 2 to 3 times every day.
Eating and writing
Ask your surgeon or physiotherapist for advice regarding eating, drinking, writing and typing..
Limitations on your activities
For the first month after your surgery, your activities will be limited. You’ll most likely have pain, swelling and bruising. Your physiotherapist will give you a list of dos and don’ts. You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting, contact sports and swimming as well as pushing or pulling using your shoulder for the first 6 weeks.
Smoking slows your healing, so try and avoid it if you can.
You may experience constipation after surgery. This can be due to the side effects of opioid painkillers, a change in your usual diet or a reduction in your usual activity levels.
Returning to work
Follow your surgeon’s advice about how much time to take off work, particularly if your job is physically demanding. Some people go back to work after 2 weeks, but you may need more time off. If your job includes manual work, you may need to take months off work.
You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery until your surgeon gives you the OK.
Because you now have metal prostheses in your shoulder, dental procedures can put you at risk of infection for the first 3 months after your surgery. Try to avoid having dental work done during this time. If you must have work done, you’ll need to tell your dentist that you’ve had a shoulder replacement and ask for an antibiotic to take before the procedure.
It’s important that you follow-up with your surgeon after the surgery. Your surgeon or a nurse will check your incision 10 to 14 days after surgery. You’ll need to be closely monitored by the surgeon or your physiotherapist for 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery.
Watching out for problems
You should call your surgeon if you experience:
- pain that suddenly gets worse
- discharge or excessive bleeding from your incision
- redness or changes in the skin around your wound
- pain and swelling in your calf
- unexplained or sudden shortness of breath
- severe headache, nausea or vomiting.